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Terrell Academy students share lifelong bonds

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

DAWSON, Ga. -- More than 130 former students, teachers and administrators are expected to gather next weekend as Terrell Academy's first class celebrates the school's founding in 1970, at what they are calling the "Fabulous Fortieth Fiesta."

The founding classes of 1971-74 reunion will be July 23 at Dawson Country Club.

"I remember we were in a very small group of 47 seniors," Donna Wills Mosteller, class of '71, said Friday. "We were pretty close, but we still had our cliques, like the smokers at break at a spot we called 'the smokestack.' "

When asked what was the most valuable lesson she learned at and after graduation from the academy, Mosteller replied quickly, "I went to Valdosta State promising I would never become a teacher. I took an art class, got hooked and wound up teaching art for 30 years.

"I also said I would never marry a teacher. I wound up marrying a teacher (Martin Mosteller). So, I guess you could say that I learned never to again say what I was never gonna do."

Don Daniel was a member of Terrell's first coaching staff with Eagles' legend Don Beard.

"This school is here today because of a lot of hard work from parents and students that started 40 years ago," Daniel said.

Daniel, a native of Dawson, has been at TA since the school's opening, returning home after a six-year stint as basketball coach at Villa Rica.

"I wanted to come back home and the school had a job opening," Daniel recalled. "I coached varsity basketball until 2000 and I am still at the school, teaching part-time.

"I'm teaching the kids of some of the kids I taught back then. I don't think I will be around to teach their grandkids," he said, laughing.

Daniel's proudest moment at the school came when Terrell won the GISA boys state Class AAA basketball championship in 1982.

"We were the smallest school in the tournament," Daniel said. "We'd come close before making it to the final or the final four a few times before finally winning it all in '82.

"We were playing against the big boys, like Southland and Tattnall. I've never been as proud of a group of kids before."

Ann Brim Streat, class of '71, has roots deeper than many. Her father, Harry Brim, served on the first Terrell Academy board and her mother, Lila Brim, established the school's library.

"I remember my mother pouring over stacks and stacks of books looking for just the right mix for that first library," Streat said. "It has been gratifying to me to watch our school go from a hole in the ground to what it is today.

"Today, Terrell Academy has one of the best college prep classes in the state. Our parents made sure we had a good education with different classes that ran the gamut ... and they didn't skimp. Our motto was 'Scholarship and Excellence,' and that still holds true today."

Streat says her classmates are special to her.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing my old friends," Streat said.

"Everybody had their own special group of friends, and a lot of us still live in the area. It's really like one big extended family."

Another Eagle looking forward to the gathering is Rockdale Superior Court Judge David Irwin, class of '74.

"We got really good educations back then," Irwin said. "There were so few people that you really couldn't get away with a lot. Plus, I had two older brothers in school at the time, so I really couldn't get away with anything."

Irwin recalled his early days at the school as daunting.

"It was a totally new experience. No one was really sure what to do or how to act," Irwin said. "I have to give all the parents credit. They put a lot of effort into the school and spent a lot of money, all for the benefit of the kids. Plus, the teachers were excellent. They expected more out of me than I did from myself.

"From them, I learned to go to class and work hard."

Irwin said he was surrounded by smart friends which helped him on down the road.

"We had some sharp cookies in that school," the judge said. "James Smith is now the bankruptcy judge for the Middle District of Georgia.

Ross Cowart teaches veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois and Roger McClendon is a professor of medicine at Duke Medical School.

"Of course, we probably also had a few classmates go to jail, but we don't need to talk about that."

Those who want more information on the reunion can contact Streat at (229) 698-2995.